West Michigan Whitecaps-2015 Midwest League Champions
Monday night the Whitecaps held on to beat the Cedar Rapids Kernels 3-2 in a decisive game five to win the Midwest League crown. This is the teams first championship since 2007, but manager Andrew Graham won the title as a catcher for West Michigan back in 2004. The ‘Caps split the first two games at home, getting shut out 5-0 in game one, and coming back with a 4-1 win in game two (the one that we were at). They dropped a heart-breaker in game three, when the Kernels earned a 3-2 walk-off win in the ninth inning. Never giving up, the Whitecaps held on to win game four 2-1 and game five 3-2, on the back of relief pitcher Joe Jimenez.
In the final game, Ross Seaton earned the win on the mound, holding the Kernels to only two runs. The Whitecaps scored their runs on RBI’s by Francisco Contreras and David Gonzalez, while the third run was scored by Contreras on a wild pitch. Jimenez struck out the side on the ninth inning to secure the victory, and championship! As memorable as this season has been, we were lucky to get down to a handful of games to see the Whitecaps play. With Larry Parrish retiring in Toledo, I fully expect Andrew Graham to be promoted, unless the Tigers’ organization brings in someone to take over just at the Triple-A level. I think he’s done a great job with this team the last two seasons, and wouldn’t mind him sticking around. Congrats again, to the Whitecaps! You can read more on their championship win on the Midwest League website HERE.
Traverse City Beach Bums-2015 Frontier League Champions
The Beach Bums defeated the River City Rascals by the score of 4-1 last Friday night to win the Frontier Cup. The Bums swept the Rascals 3-0 in the best of five series, and were 6-0 in the postseason. In the ten year history of the ball club in Traverse City, this was the second time making to the finals, being defeated by River City back in 2012. The Bums literally went from worst to first this season, winning a club record 56 games as they advanced to the palyoffs for the fourth time since 2010. Injuries plaqued last seasons team, including Frontier Cup MVP Jose Vargas. Vargas was also the hero of game two, with a walk-off base hit to give his team a 6-5 win, and complete the comeback when they were down 5-1. Manager Dan Rohn, a Central Michigan alumni, did a great job with the team this season, and I think the Beach Bums are lucky to have a veteran coach at this level. Congrats to the Beach Bums, and were at least able to make it to a couple of games this season, including the last weekend of the regular season that started their nine-game winning streak. You can read more on the Bums title win on the Frontier League website HERE and at the Record Eagle website HERE.
Photos courtesy of the Whitecaps and Record Eagle
West Michigan Whitecaps vs Cedar Rapids Kernels (Midwest League Finals)
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Last week I was able to scratch one more thing off my baseball bucket list, while cheering on my Whitecaps in the Midwest League finals. The game was during the week, so the kids had to sit this one out due to school, but I was able to take a day off from work and make the trip down to enjoy the day with my dad.
The game was going pretty quick, as both the Kernels Sam Gibbons and the ‘Caps A.J. Ladwig were locked in a pitchers duel. Gibbons kept West Michigan off of the board until the seventh inning. Down 1-0, left fielder Christin Stewart smacked a double that put runners at second and third, with no outs, to really get things going. Designated-hitter Joey Pankake then singled to score two runs and the Whitecaps had a 2-1 lead. Stewart was awarded the run, as the Kernels’ catcher was blocking the plate without the ball. Cedar Rapids manager Jake Mauer was tossed by the home plate ump for arguing the call. Not well-played, Mauer. Things fell apart a bit for the Kernels, as they made two errors and hit a batter, as the ‘Caps chased Gibbons and took a 4-1 lead.
On the mound for West Michigan, Ladwig pitched a great game, giving up his only run in the second inning. He gave up only six scattered hits while striking out two, and issuing no walks in seven innings of work. Johan Belisario came in and carved up the Kernels batters in the eight with his nasty curveball, striking out one, and was credited with the hold. Top Tigers prospect Joe Jimenez pitched a perfect ninth, also, striking out two to earn the save. Great pitching performances all around for West Michigan. Leading the way offensively, Mike Gerber and Stewart each went 2-4 on the night, and Pankake went 1-4 with two RBI’s.
This was a great experience to be able to be at this game. Also fun when your team wins and you can high-five perfect strangers all around you and celebrate as fans. Good time for my dad and I to spend together, too, as baseball always goes best with family. This game tied the series at 1-1, but now as I’m posting this it’s tied at 2-2 with the fifth and final game tonight in Cedar Rapids. Win or lose, this was a fantastic season for the Whitecaps. They were an underdog team all season, and manager Andrew Graham has done a great job. Already looking forward to Minor League Baseball in 2016! Final: Whitecaps 4, Kernels 1.
Here’s a nice little video of the ‘Caps taking a 2-1 lead on a Joey Pankake base hit, where West Michigan scored the second run due to the fact that the Kernels catcher was blocking the plate without the ball:
Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
West Michigan Whitecaps vs Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Oh, it’s that time of the year, again, when my little Nerf-Herders and I head down to Fifth Third Ballpark for Star Wars Night. We got to meet old favorites like the Stormtroopers and Darth Vader, as well as a newbie like Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels. The one thing I was disappointed with was that there was no Boba Fett!! How could the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy not make an appearance?
After we mingled with members of the Galactic Empire and Rebellion, we were able to take a stroll around the warning track of Fifth Third Ballpark. Personally, I never turn down an opportunity to walk around on a professional baseball field. Jedi Franky welcomed us onto the field, and was able to get a few good pics of the boys.
With everything going on, we almost forgot we had a ballgame to watch. This was a pitcher’s duel for certain. On the mound for the ‘Caps, A.J. Ladwig gave up an early solo home run, but settle in and pitched a nice game. He went 6.1 innings, only giving up two earned runs, and striking out two. Gage Smith would come in and earn the save.
Offensively, West Michigan was led by catcher Arvicent Perez, who went 3-3 on the night, including an RBI. Both Rashad Brown and Michael Gerber went 2-4, respectively, with Gerber earning an RBI. Garrett Mattlage scored on a wild pitch, and Zach Shepherd walked and scored on a throwing error. Final: Whitecaps 3, Hot Rods 2.
After the game we were treated to some fireworks, which capped off a fantastic night. Just one more game where I feel lucky and blessed to be able to spend time with my kids and dad. We’re not sure when our next game will be, but we’ll be sure to make it’s a good one.
And one more photo we bought from MI Unlimited Photography. For some reason all three of us look like we were just captured and are about to be brought before the Emperor. I guess we’re just tired from travel and fun.
Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
The Detroit Tigers have drafted Cam Gibson in the 5th round with their 160th pick. Not really ground breaking news, other than the fact that Cam is the son of Tiger legend Kirk Gibson. Like his father before him, Cam is currently attending Michigan State University. Of course it’s unknown at this point if Cam, who just finished his junior season, will return to MSU or join the Tigers organization. As a junior, he had a career-best 10 doubles and 17 stolen bases. He hit .294 while hitting five home runs and posting 32 RBI’s. We had a chance to see Cam play back in 2013 when he was a member of the Battle Creek Bombers.
Drafting family members of current and former Tiger players and management is nothing new. In fact, Detroit just drafted RHP Ryan Castellanos in the 25th round (760 overall), who is brother to third baseman Nick Castallanos. Over the seasons we’ve seen the likes of Pat Leyland, Colin Kaline, Nick Avila, and Ben Verlander in West Michigan, all relatives to others in the Detroit organization (and I’m probably missing a few). Out of their top picks, though, I think that outfielder Christian Stewart and pitcher Tyler Alexander have the best shot at cracking the Whitecaps roster right out of the draft.
Photo property of Minoring In Baseball
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Dayton Dragons (Midwest League)
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: After a fun night of baseball, we were back at the ballpark the next morning for more of the same. Sundays at the Whitecaps games are the best, as the kids are able to get on the field before the game, run the bases after the game, and get some free eats. We started off on the field, with Brian getting to meet his favorite player Joey Pankake. Since we missed a shot with Franky the day before, we got a pic with him, as well as PBS Wordgirl. The boys even hot a chance to hang out in front of the dugout for a few minutes.
The game went a lot better for the home team this time around. Pankake hit an RBI single in the first inning, to put West Michigan up 1-0 early. On the mound, Jeff Thompson worked effectively, even getting the Dragons to hit into an inning ending double-play with bases loaded in the fourth inning.
The Whitecaps would add on some more runs, as Zach Shepherd doubled in a pair in the bottom of the fourth. In the fifth, Austin Schotts hit a RBI single, and Garrett Mattlage squeezed home a run. So cool to see a squeeze play live. Forget home runs, that’s baseball! Thompson continued his dominance, pitching six innings and striking out a career high nine batters. Final: Whitecaps 5, Dragons 0.
After the game, Trevor took Brian back onto the field to run the bases. He had fun showing off his speed burning around the bases. He was a little tired, though, as the bases are a little further apart than they are in Little League. This was a great day, and a great holiday weekend with family. We are all very grateful for this time together, and thankful for all the brave men and women who gave their lives so we can enjoy days like this. We really wanted to see the game on Memorial Day, but things didn’t work out (it was a good game, too, as the ‘Caps won in extra innings). We’ll be back downstate in a couple of weeks, and will try to see more baseball then.
Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball
West Michigan Whitecaps vs. Dayton Dragons (Midwest League)
Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: Our holiday weekend started on Saturday night, with the Whitecaps hosting Pink in the Park to raise money for breast cancer awareness. We didn’t originally plan on attending this game, but with rain looming the next few days, we definitely wanted to get one in that was guaranteed. This was Brian’s first game of the season, so he was excited to get to…the playground. On our way there, though, we came across this beauty, which I signed up to win:
The game itself was a very rough one for the Whitecaps. West Michigan actually drew first blood, when Will Kengor doubled, scoring top Tiger prospect Derek Hill. The Dragons stormed back, though, blowing the game open with a 10 run fifth inning. Ross Seaton, who was 5-1 coming into the game, was lit up before getting the hook.
Dayton would add on four more runs, to make it a disastrous night for the Whitecaps. It just seemed the Dragons were able to drop about everything in, while the ‘Caps hit the ball hard, but just to the defense. Win or lose, it was fun to get our game in West Michigan this season. We’d be back the next morning, to get another game in for the holiday weekend. Final Score: Whitecaps 1, Dragons 14.
This summer, the Great Lake State will be opening it’s very own Baseball Hall of Fame. The location will be at the Lansing Lugnuts’ Cooley Law School stadium, in left center field on the outfield wall. The idea came last year, when the Lugnuts started a $26.5 million renovation to their ballpark. Lugnuts owner Tom Dickson helped to conceive the idea, realizing there is no such place yet.
“We said, why don’t we do it,” Dickson told MLive.com. “Sometimes it’s amazing what you stumble upon with a little but of luck.”
The Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame will start with 10 members in its inaugural class. It will include plaques with images of the inductees, as well as the when and why they were inducted. The Hall will include players and coaches native to Michigan, as well as those who came to our state and ‘contributed significantly and positively within the national pastime.’ The Hall won’t be limited to just major league players, either, and could include a little league team, high school or college players, and coaches.
“We’re looking for people who have made an outstanding contribution to baseball in the state of Michigan across all levels”, stated Dickson.
There is a very impressive selection committee in place, looking to seek out the worthy candidates from our state. Along with some of the great players from the Detroit Tigers, I would love to see pitcher Jim Abbott selected, as he was one of my favorite players growing up. Michigan also has a great history of amateur baseball, as the very first College World Series was played in Kalamazoo, and the Stan Musial World Series being played in Battle Creek. C.O. Brown and Arch Flannery would be good bets, also, as they were responsible for bringing the series to BC back in 1937. I definitely can’t wait until June 27th, when the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame opens its doors.
Logo courtesy of Michigan Hall of Fame/MLive.com
The West Michigan Whitecaps seem to be faring well at the current Baseball Winter Meetings. They were first presented with the 2014 Bob Freitas Award, that is given to the organization with the best overall operations. The award honors teams that demonstrate a sustained excellence in the business of Minor League Baseball based on the last five years. The Whitecaps also earned this honor back in 1998, making them the second Class A team in history to win this award twice. The San Jose Giants also won it in 1990 and 2009. The Whitecaps CEO and Managing Partner Lew Chamberlin seemed very humbled that his team had been selected.
“The Freitas Award is one of the most prestigious awards that a Minor League franchise can receive and we couldn’t be more honored to be this year’s designee,” Chamberlin stated to MiLB.com. “The success that the award recognizes is the result of a lot of hard work on the part of our staff, the support of and incredibly engaged fan base and community, a terrific Major League partner, and a little but of luck. It’s been an incredible year for us in so many different ways and we’re very appreciative of this award.”
The ‘Caps also earned a Minor League Baseball Presidential Citation, which is a special award presented by MiLB President and CEO Pat O’Connor, and recognizes exemplary service on behalf of Minor League Baseball. Due to the fire last January at Fifth Third Ballpark, the team was given the award due to their effort through the community to rebuild and be ready by opening day. West Michigan also hosted the Midwest League All-Star Classic last season, and it drew the highest attendance in the last 12 years.
“We’re appreciative of this recognition,” Chamberlin also stated to MiLB.com. “Our Minor League peers have all been very supportive during the days immediately following the fire and throughout the rebuilding process and we’re pleased that that support has culminated in this citation from MiLB.”
This was a great season for Whitecaps baseball, that started with their open house back in February. The team made the playoffs, and I wish they would have made it a little farther, but we all had a great time at Fifth Third Ballpark this season. I’m hoping 2015 is just as fun, but if I get my transfer I will definitely miss being at the ballpark in West Michigan.
Photo courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps